For those of us who still read newspapers – we're a dying breed – the front page of Sunday's (Minneapolis) Star Tribune came off as a sensationalized story on the top of Page 1 about the cost of getting the Super Bowl to come to Minnesota.
Apparently, the argument was more about the privacy of the agreement – it wasn't made public, it was leaked to the newspaper – than the demands made by the NFL.
The reality is that when a major event – the Super Bowl, the Olympics, etc. – comes to a city, part of the bid package is agreeing to the terms and conditions that the NFL, Olympics, or what major sports body sets for the mass of executives and media that will descend on the host city. It's a bigger version of a musician having a "rider" in a contract – the demands for food, beverages and accommodations to have that act perform in a certain venue.
It's not uncommon. If the NFL has a "rider," it's likely pretty stiff. And it should be. The NFL has printed money during the worst economic recession in 30 years. It is bulletproof and the executives know it.
But the Super Bowl host committee issued it's statement about the winning bid to a larger audience than the Star Tribune Monday afternoon after seeing the story.
"While the Minnesota Super Bowl Bid Committee did not agree to all of the NFL's Super Bowl bid specifications, the competitive bid remains private. It is important to note, however, that through the Host Committee's fundraising efforts, the private sector will cover any additional costs for the Super Bowl. Neither the city nor the state will be responsible for additional public costs such as increased security, public infrastructure or police," the statement read.
"The bottom line is that by hosting the world's marquee sporting event, we have guaranteed that 100,000+ visitors will descend on this community, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and significant tax revenues to the state. Furthermore, the game will allow us to showcase this region to more than 100 million people around the world and will help secure other major events moving forward."
Although the story did reference that a $30 million pledge from local business leaders will cover most or all of the cost for the requirements of the NFL rider, it seems as though the demands aren't as outrageous as a "above-the-fold" story would tend to warrant.
What is the NFL demanding?
1. All money from game ticket sales. That is standard procedure. The Super Bowl isn't a home game. It's a league game. With as much money as the state collects on taxes on tickets and merchandise from every home game ticket sold (not to mention income tax from players), there really shouldn't be much of an argument here.
2. Free police escorts for team owners to and from the game. Really? A half-dozen cops rolling a few blocks. Much ado about a $300-400 tab. I'll kick in $5 to help defray costs. All I need is 59 to 79 like-minded types to take this expense off the board.
3. 35,000 free parking spaces. The parking lots in question won't be providing those for free – unless they are lots owned by the Vikings that are currently occupied by dirt. They will be paid for out of the $30 million slush fund, so there will be income and the state and city will recoup tax money off of it. Granted, 35,000 spaces is a lot of guaranteed spaces for predominantly rental cars. Will anyone be back-slapping Zygi Wilf if he waives parking fees in his own lots? Let's see that as a Page 1 story.
4. Twelve cases of water, 800 pounds of ice and 1,000 towels each day during Super Bowl week. This is so insignificant it barely warrants comment. Again, in the spirit of charity, I'm tempted to donate a case of water my own self to take this stiff burden off of local taxpayers … and I don't even have a "bottled water guy."
5. Twenty free billboards. Again, the billboard providers will be paid. They may actually compete for low bids. Billboard signage types might even be willing to co-brand with the NFL and give discount prices for 20 billboards. Considering anyone who drives up to cabins in the lakes region of northern Minnesota sees 20 billboards in a one-mile span, it really isn't a significant investment regardless of who pays for it.
6. ATMs inside the stadium for the Super Bowl that accept NFL-preferred credit/debit cards. A funny thing about ATMs. They always dispense cash. It's just a matter of the fee attached to it from the vendor and/or the cardholder's financial institution involved. They aren't asking to keep them there in perpetuity afterward. What's the problem? They'll be local ATMs brought in and local businesses with thrive off the pimping charge associated with each transaction.
7. Two "top-quality" bowling centers for the annual Celebrity Bowling Classic. The publicity the "top-quality" bowling alleys will receive from having celebrities as opposed to local bowling enthusiasts will become a talking point for years after. Bowling alleys are going the way of roller rinks and drive-in theatres. Both are on life support. Bowling alleys aren't far behind. Bowling centers may actually bid to pay for the privilege of hosting NFL players and the stars of stage, screen and music to come to their facility to bowl in a pedestrian fashion. This one shouldn't cost a dime because, if most of us owned a high-end bowling alley, we would likely pay for the opportunity to have the "beautiful people" come to a place typically devoid of "beautiful people." My bid would allow free rail drinks – celebrities don't drink rail drinks, so I'd make out like a thief.
8. The host committee can have up to 750 tickets, but will have to pay for them. The key phrase here is "pay for them." Paying face value for a Super Bowl ticket – you can imagine they won't be in the nose bleeds behind a load-bearing pillar – for face value is a profitable enterprise. Just ask Mike Tice.
9. Free access to top quality golf courses during the summer and fall prior to the Super Bowl. Like the bowling alley contention, there isn't a golf course that would be unwilling to waive green fees for NFL muckedy-mucks and well-heeled sponsors who are in the 1 percent of business movers and shakers in the United States. Smaller public courses may struggle, but big-time golf course owners don't live check to check. They can afford to waive fees – for their own business aspirations. Again, there may be competition to be a course selected, so this is another non-starter issue that, if played right, could actually be a bid process that could make money, not cost money.
10. Requiring local police officials to enforce counterfeit ticket duties outside the stadium. The buzz around the stadium Super Bowl Sunday will have a strong police presence that will render the ticket enforcement contingent a splinter-group of the law enforcement officers on scene. Again, perhaps 10 cops for the two days prior to the game. No big deal.
11. Providing a one-mile "clean zone" around the stadium. Simply stated, it prohibits permits being issued for special-use gatherings around the stadium. With the Super Bowl always being a potential terrorist target, this provision likely would have been installed anyway. Another non-starter.
12. Paying for transportation and expenses for up to 180 NFL officials to do advance scouting trips of the site. This isn't uncommon. The Republican National Convention had a similar policy and there wasn't such a fuss over that. This is one that will definitely be covered by the $30 million slush fund. My only concern here wouldn't be the transportation portion of the final tab, but the expenses. Give rich people blank checks and they tend to abuse the privilege. That's just true. This one is a potential red flag, regardless of who picks up the tab. This scenario requires an auditor.
13. Putting team and NFL logos on the field and in the end zones. The assumption in the Star-Trib piece was made that the turf would have to be replaced in order to accommodate this request. It would make more sense to install the type of turf that would be used for such a purpose when it is laid on the field in early 2016. Moot point solved before it's an issue.
14. Hotels in the Twin Cities that will be hosting Super Bowl visitors must offer the NFL Network for a year prior to the game. The money they're taking in will pay for a one-year subscription to NFL Network in overpriced room service/minibar tabs alone. Who doesn't love a $9 bottle of beer? They'll do fine.
15. Increasing cell phone signal strength at team hotels. The fact that the signal strength isn't up to snuff in a downtown region is sad in itself. Whether temporary or permanent, Roger Goodell doesn't want dropped calls. Nor should he.
16. The requirement of free Presidential Suites to the NFL elite at high-end hotels. Do you ever wonder why rich people occupy the top floors at hotels in Las Vegas and don't pay a dime? Because Vegas is used to having high rollers in town. They leave their money behind. Comp hotel rooms for "whales" is time-honored and understood. Can one imagine a guy in a vest and a bow-tie wheeling in a foldout bed for Goodell? They didn't ask for chocolate fountains and strawberries? Some do.
17. Require local newspapers to publish at least 20 pages of free color content to the "NFL Experience" in the month leading up to the Super Bowl. If terrestrial newspapers still exist in 2018, they'll be happy to pimp out the Super Bowl. One Page 1. But they will be in news stories, not advertising. Break out the color plates boys and be happy you still can. As for a similar requirement of free ads for radio stations, most will be more than willing to trade-out advertising for one or two key interviews. Deal done.
In their totality, it sounds like the NFL demands seem a bit heavy-handed. Considering the money the league generates, to us 9-to-5 types, it may seem a bit excessive. But the bottom line is that the NFL coming to the new Minneapolis Stadium (rumored to be referred to as U.S. Bank Stadium – from TCF to U.S. Bank?) is going to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of rainmakers (those who routinely "make it rain" in stores, restaurants and clubs).
Why shouldn't the NFL broker the best deal it can get? Minnesota agreed to more conditions than New Orleans or Indianapolis (or so the theory goes), but if the Star Tribune wants to do an investigative piece, perhaps it should obtain the documentation of what Indianapolis did to land a Super Bowl and see how Minnesota compares on the "Yes/No Check One" options.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: NFL gets demands because it can
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